A few days after France were knocked out of Euro 2004, Arsenal hired a private plane for Patrick Vieira and waited for him at their pre-season training camp in Austria.
When the Learjet landed on the tarmac in Graz, no-one was quite sure whether the Arsenal captain would emerge when the hatch was finally opened.
Eventually, after much anticipation, Vieira made his way down the steps and in to a limousine that made the 60km journey out of town for a meeting with Arsene Wenger in Bad Waltersdorf.
Touching down: Patrick Vieira lands in Austria for showdown talks
At the time Vieira was calling the shots, captain of Arsenal’s Invincibles and being courted for a third successive summer by Real Madrid.
He wasn’t quite so sure of his international career after he was left on the bench for France’s quarter-final defeat against Greece at Euro 2004, but he remained one of the world’s best midfielders.
At Arsenal he was the main man, the driving force of a team that was competing at top of the Premier League with Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.
After settling in to the team hotel in Austria and re-acquainting himself with Arsenal’s
players, he spent hours with Wenger as they discussed the strategy for the following season.
By then Vieira had won three Premier League titles at the Emirates, but they were falling short every year in the Champions League.
Despite the team – and talent – they couldn’t crack it with a side that boasted Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, Ashley Cole, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Vieira.
And in spite of their marvellous unbeaten run in the Premier League, they were knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals at Highbury when Wayne Bridge scored Chelsea’s late winner.
Ultimately Vieira chose to stay, committing himself to Arsenal for one more year before eventually moved to Juventus for £20m in the summer of 2005.
In just a few days’ time, Arsenal will make similar arrangements for Robin Van Persie to join Wenger on the club’s gruelling pre-season tour of Asia.
After years of stubborn resistance to long-distance travel before the start of the season,
Wenger has been forced to accept the commercial advantages of playing in Malaysia, China and Hong Kong.
It means there will be plenty of opportunity for talk time between the captain and a manager who is already preparing for life beyond Van Persie.
Cities & Stadiums
The Top 3 Teams of Previous Tournaments
|2008||Spain||Germany||Russia / Turkey|
|2004||Greece||Portugal||Netherlands / Czech Republic|
|2000||France||Italy||Netherlands / Portugal|
|1996||Germany||Czech Republic||France / England|
|1992||Denmark||Germany||Netherlands / Sweden|
|1988||Netherlands||Soviet Union||Italy / West Germany|
|1984||France||Spain||Denmark / Portugal|
|1972||West Germany||Soviet Union||Belgium|